Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


OPTICAST — Result In Brief

Project ID: 262503
Funded under: FP7-SME
Country: Iceland

Eco-friendly and durable cast iron machine tools

Cast iron machine tools are an important source of heavy metals in the environment and the food chain. EU-funded scientists have developed new processing technology to minimise heavy metal content as well as production costs and time.
Eco-friendly and durable cast iron machine tools
The heavy metal content of cast iron machine tools (ranging from 12 to 45 %) poses a threat not only to employees but to plants, animals and people. Abrasion of the wear-resistant, iron-based machine parts during processing releases heavy metals such as chromium and nickel into the local environment with potentially hazardous effects on personnel. Further, heavy metals in the waste stream and those released by end-of-life tools in landfills can find their way into the food chain.

The EU-funded 'Production of two phase low cost functional gradient recyclable wear resistant cast iron products' (OPTICAST) project has developed new technologies to produce fully recyclable cast iron with a fraction of the rare earth and heavy metal content produced by existing methods. In addition, by creating a functional gradient in the material , it is harder in certain strategic locations and softer and easily machinable in others, the parts have increased wear resistance that increases tool lifetime by up to 300 %.

A computer programme based on computational fluid dynamics supports the foundry operator in preventing casting failures and perfecting mould design a priori without trial and error. Substantial reductions in production costs are expected as well as a decrease in cast time from weeks to days. Researchers have also developed an ultrasound-based testing system for quality control to ensure that the functional gradient zone meets location and wear resistance requirements.

The OPTICAST functionally graded material has been trademarked under the name ModiCast, and the manufacturing technology has been successfully scaled up. Two prototypes are currently being tested under real-life conditions. One is employed in a metal shredder to grind automobiles, and the other in a hammer to crush timber in a wood recycling plant.

Replacement of conventional cast iron processing techniques with ModiCast materials and OPTICAST technologies promises a significant decrease in heavy metal release as well as an important boost to the competitive position of EU solid materials processing industries.
OPTICAST results have been widely disseminated, a comprehensive exploitation agreement is now in place and a patent application has been filed, all putting the technology on the road to commercialisation.

Related information


Heavy metals, cast iron, machine tools, recyclable, functionally graded material, non-destructive testing
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